Tsimba starts for Cheetahs

Exciting Zimbabwean flyhalf Kennedy Tsimba is back in the Free State Cheetahs team for Saturday's Top Eight opener in the Bankfin Currie Cup competition against Griquas in Kimberley.

Tsimba (pictured) has been out of action for several months following a leg injury and only just recently started playing again. The gifted pivot, who suffered from stress fractures, had three outings for the Cheetahs 'A' team and reportedly performed admirably.

Coach Peet Kleynhans on Thursay said he is happy that Tsimba is back to peak fitness and close to his best form. Stand-in Conrad Barnard had one of his best games when the Cheetahs shocked the star-studded Natal Sharks 36-28 in Bloemfontein last Saturday and Kleynhans admitted it was quite a difficult selection.

"Yes, it was difficult, because both are such gifted players, but fortunately we are able to keep both in the 22-man squad. Kennedy is as ready as they come and we are looking forward to seeing him play at this level again."

Kleynhans made two more changes to the side that beat the Sharks.He opted to give JP du Toit (in at centre for MJ Smith) and Andries van der Linden (for André van Niekerk at hooker) some game time.

The coach was happy with the performance against the Sharks. "I was impressed by the quality of our game. That gave me a lot of satisfaction and it gives the players more confidence in their abilities. They tried certain things and it worked."

He added that the presence of experienced Springbok loose-forwards Rassie Erasmus and Andre Venter spurred the rest of the team on. "They are experienced and they bring a relaxed attitude to the side.

"They know how to keep the younger guys calm in pressure situations and they played a massive role on Saturday. And they are obviously two helluva good players too," Kleynhans commented.

The Cheetahs start the Top Eight phase with only six points, behind Western Province (with 12 log points), the Pumas (11), Falcons (9) and the Lions (9). Kleynhans, however, sees it as a challenge to leapfrog these teams in their quest for a semifinal berth.

"Look, we know that we cannot allow a mishap. If we let slip once we are in trouble and the players are aware of it. It's almost like a knockout competition for us, but we are looking forward to the challenge. We realise we must win everything," the coach said.

Cheetahs: Leon van den Heever, Wylie Human, Helgard Brink, JP du Toit, Edrick Fredericks, Kennedy Tsimba, Neil Powell, Johan Erasmus, André Venter, Hendro Scholtz, Boela du Plooy (capt), Joe Beukes, Dougie Heymans, Andries van der Linden, Daan Human. Substitutes: André van Niekerk, Danie Saayman, Gerrie Britz, Gromingo Mzunga, Jimmy Powell, MJ Smith, Conrad Barnard.